Thursday, June 09, 2005

kpunk, penetrating and provocative, on capitalism as bi-polar disorder, economic/political "realism" as sheer lunacy, and the rush/crash cycles of the post-Fordist economy.

Tangentially, a couple of books came out recently that attributed America's entrepreneurial eminence to the country having somehow become a magnet for manic personalities, who managed to entrain the whole nation's bio-rhythms to their own out-of-kilter ones: American Mania: When More Is Not Enough, by Peter Whybrow; and The Hypomanic Edge, by John D. Gartner. Sounds fanciful perhaps, but then consider this cultural fact: American workers get one or two weeks vacation time a year (c.f. four or five in the UK, even more on the Continent).

(In the most manic two years of my life, 1987-1988, I was on the staff at Melody Maker, and as an IPC employee entitled to five weeks vacation a year. In 1987 I took exactly zero weeks off, on account of being so buzzed up about current music: there was always something that had to be written about that week. The vacation time was rolled over to '88, but it being an equally maniacal and messianic time musically, I only managed two weeks off, leaving a total backlog across 2 years of 8 weeks. I really loved my job! In the end they said no more rolling it to next year and i was forced to take a couple of weeks off in December '88--not a great time for your hols, and in fact i mooched around London wishing I was at work. The rest of the holiday time was just lost. But that's an example of neophilia X workaholic = mania. Moroever, talking about biorhythmic out-of-wackness, a lot of the stuff was all written in all-night-sessions--no drugs, just coffee and the Will. If you get past the horrible cold-feverish i-feel-like-a-ghost phase around dawn when your body temperature dips, there is a point where the brain starts pumping natural stimulants. Mid-morning I would come into the office--no faxes in those days--brandishing my copy in a state I can only describe as Nietzchean. No coincidence, a lot of the Futurist manifestos were written after staying up all night).

Further tangentially, The Aviator is a portrait of the American enterpreneur as Nietzchean mania-c. He ends up in this mental-tic loop, doesn't he, at the end, muttering "way of the future" or "wave of the future," something like that, over and over? Seeing that reminded me of this early jungle track that samples and repeats "wave of the future", over and over. Rave, like capitalism, all about living like there's no tomorrow, creating a kind of budget deficit of serotonin, burning up one's future supply of neurological happiness, just as capitalism depletes unrecoverable resources. Aviator, and rave, also remind me of that great Lee Ranaldo line in Daydream Nation's "Eric Trip" about "fucking the future". (Possibly an unconscious echo of SY's Beat-rocker hero Patti Smith's line about "I don't fuck much with the past but I fuck plenty with the future"). Capitalism's all about speculating on futures, which is gambling, and gambling itself is a form of drugging the nervous system without recourse to drugs. You only have to look at the scenes on the floor at Wall Street, it's like a $$$$-rave. Of course a lot of them are on central nervous system stimulants anyway, coke's the only way they can keep up with the job.

Interesting that the modern age of bi-polar capitalism is dated as starting (in the piece Mark cites) as October 6 1979, with a decision by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates massively--ie. make money more expensive, a gift to the financier class--thus inaugurating the era of supply-side economics, when shareholders> producers. Roughly midway between the ascensions of Thatcher and Reagan. Although Carter would have still been in power (somewhat paralleling the way Callaghan's Labour, under duress from the IMF, started on Thatcherism before Thatcher took over). At any rate when the Fun Boy Three plaintively observed that the lunatics have taken over the asylum, they were spot-on.

(Maggie Thatcher famously only slept four hours a night, right?)

I wonder what "stagflation", that Seventies economic malaise you never hear about these days, corresponds to, in terms of psychological disorder. It seems like another "impossible" mental-economic state, but the inverse of mania. And just the word "stagflation" also seems somehow very British (they used to talk about the UK as the sick man of Europe, about the British malaise).

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